Having trouble sorting out the facts from the spin in political speeches, TV ads and mailers? The Political Buzz team is ready to fact check this season’s campaign. E-mail your questions to Political Smell Test.
BY LES BLUMENTHAL
THE CLAIM: The National Republican Senatorial Committee says Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., is being duplicitous by taking campaign contributions from the financial sector, including Goldman Sachs, while at the same time demanding tough Wall Street reforms.
In a press release, Republican spokeswoman Amber Marchand said Murray, who is up for re-election, should follow the lead of Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and donate her Goldman Sachs contributions to charity.
Murray’s communications director, Alex Glass, said Murray is not taking contributions from Goldman Sachs, including the firm’s political action committee and executives, during this election cycle.
THE FACTS: From 1992, when she was first elected, to the current election cycle, Murray has received nearly $515,000 in contributions from the securities and investment community, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks campaign donations.
Over the years, Murray’s received $28,000 from Goldman Sachs. She has not taken money from the Wall Street firm during this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission filings.
She is hardly alone among Democrats or Republicans in taking donations from Wall Street.
From 1989 to 2010, Goldman Sachs contributed a total of more than $16.4 million to Senate and House candidates. Of the more than 500 current and former members of Congress who received Goldman Sachs contributions between 1989 and 2010, Murray ranked 103rd.
President Barack Obama, a former Illinois senator, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the 2008 GOP presidential candidate, received the most. Obama received $16 million and McCain $10.3 million.
The financial sector contributed a total of nearly $129 million to Senate and House campaigns from 1989 to 2010. Murray ranked 74th among the 120 senators and former senators who served during the time period in terms of financial sector contributions.
THE SPIN: Republicans say Murray is being two-faced in taking Wall Street money while calling for financial reform. “As Murray plays the populist for the cameras but acts like a practiced politician behind closed doors, Washingtonians can see through her hypocrisy, and they will hold her accountable this November,” said Marchand.
Murray has spoken out forcefully for reform, including earlier this week when she said, “We can never again let the risks and irresponsible behavior of Wall Street hurt Main Street this way. It is time to put progress before politics and people before Wall Street.”
REALITY CHECK: There are no indications Murray violated campaign finance laws in accepting the contributions. It will be up to voters to decide whether criticizing the financial industry and Goldman Sachs after having taken campaign contributions from them in the past constitutes hypocrisy, courage or typical politics.
UPDATE: Murray is not going to give the $28,000 to charity. It’s been spent. Here is what Alex Glass said, when asked about the $28,000:
“No. She hasn’t taken any money this cycle. She is fighting hard for Wall Street reform and to crack down on the reckless behavior that has cost Washington state residents their jobs, homes and pensions.”
MORE READING: For a comprehensive analysis of the finance industry’s influence on Capitol Hill, read the “Crossing Wall Street” series at the Center for Responsive Politics.